Joyful Sound Choir
Surpassing Expectations with Unique Style
With their love for God and passion for music, members of the Joyful Sound Choir have a way of affecting all who hear them. Made up of more than 50 people with developmental disabilities, ages 8 to 75, this group surpasses all expectations as they make audiences smile and cry with their unique style.
Sponsored by Henderson Hills Baptist Church, the Joyful Sound Choir has been singing praise music for more than 10 years. Many members of the choir do not attend Henderson Hills. Several attend other churches or no church at all. Most of the choir members live in the Edmond area, but some come from Norman, Moore and Del City.
Jeff McDonald, a young man who works for the Meadows Center for Opportunity, has been singing with the choir since its inception nearly 12 years ago. In fact, he won the contest to name the choir. “He still has his prize-winning T-shirt,” his mother said.
At first, no one actually knew that Jeff could sing. He enjoyed being around the group and hummed along with the music — until a few years ago when he decided to do a solo. He asked his mother to sing “The Lord’s Prayer,” and after hearing it only twice, Jeff had memorized the song and later created a drama with scripture to go with it.
Bryan Cox has been a member of the choir since its beginning. The 44-year-old enjoys all kinds of music and regularly plays CDs regularly at home. He always reminds his parents well in advance when he needs to attend choir rehearsal or an event. He doesn’t want to miss it.
No matter how people are gifted, there is a place in the choir to showcase their talents. Some sing solos. Others hum and smile or use sign language. Some use percussion instruments such as shakers or tambourines. Volunteers help individuals express those abilities. At choir rehearsal, members are usually given cassettes of the songs they are practicing. They take the tapes home and work on them. Although some cannot articulate, they enjoy listening to the music throughout the week and it lets them become familiar with the tunes.
“The choir is clearly an answer to prayer,” said Pam Horst, who has worked with special needs students at Henderson Hills for more than 20 years. “We prayed for this choir for years before it ever came to pass. We prayed for God to send people who have a heart for this ministry and the ability to develop the choir.” Horst sees that answer in the choir’s directors, Shouna Olson, Alex Bagby and Mike McGaugh.
Olson said God led her to be a director of the choir when he not only gave her a skill and love for music, but also with the gift of a child with Down syndrome who loves praising God through music. Her 18-year old son, Preston, has been singing in the choir since he was 6 years old. He also enjoys directing the choir on certain numbers.
“It is natural for me to feel a passion for this ministry,” Olson said. “When they sing, I hear the message more clearly than when the most perfect voice delivers the same message. They deliver straight from the heart with complete abandon and freedom.” She said she believes music is a universal language and that even the nonverbal members of the choir praise God through swaying to the music, clapping their hands or smiling.
Mike McGaugh runs the sound system for the choir and works with the percussion section. He said the choir is the most powerful ministry in which he has ever been involved. “It is an awesome sight to look out in the audience while they are performing and see tears rolling down the faces of so many people,” he said. “I believe we have barely tapped the talent of many of our members.” He has a vision of a larger instrument section in the future.
McGaugh’s son, Kevin, graduated from Santa Fe High School a few years ago and now works at the Trails Workshop in Edmond. He has been singing with the choir for 11 years. Kevin sang his first solo in church when he was 3 years old. Now he works on his music every day and, according to his father, has worn out at least 10 player/recorders and three karaoke units during his choir years. Kevin also takes a note pad to choir and writes down prayer requests during the “share” time and prays for each one when he gets home.
The Joyful Sound Choir meets from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays at Henderson Hills Baptist Church, 15th Street and I-35. For more information about joining the choir or to schedule a performance, contact Shouna Olson at 405-608-0554 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.